A big challenge on-farm is pasture utilisation - getting animals to eat as much as possible of what is grown.
To achieve this farmers need to focus on the post-grazing residual.
What is possible?
Typical utilisation of our dairy pastures is believed to be 50-70% of DM grown, with top operators reaching 75-85%. Achievable utilisation is also affected by conditions. It is highest on free draining soils, and poorest during wet weather.
How can utilisation be improved?
Focus on what’s left after grazing, the post-grazing residual. If farmers get this right, they harvest a high amount of pasture, and equally importantly leave the paddock in the right state to regrow leafy, quality grass for the next grazing.
Achieving the right residual
Grazing at the right time, before the pasture loses quality at the base, produces high ME feed. With the right stocking rate animals will graze to the right residual, perform well and achieve the high utilisation needed to make the pasture system efficient.
The secret is to graze to the same residual all the time. High utilisation is easier when feed supply is tight. A focus on residuals is most important during periods of excess growth - and tools such as mowing or making silage are important to help achieve this.
Residuals in bad weather
In wet weather, particularly on heavy soils, achieving low residuals is not possible. In these cases the priority should be to avoid pugging and if necessary accept a higher residual. Focus back onto residuals as soon as weather allows.